Irish Water must expedite Shannon wastewater infrastructure improvements - Mulcahy
Clare Senator Tony Mulcahy has said that Irish Water's commitment to improving wastewater infrastructure in Shannon and Bunratty is "not before time" and he called on the water utility company to expedite the process.
The Shannon-based Senator's comments follow the announcement by Irish Water of how it intends addressing a number of historical issues with the wastewater infrastructure in the area, including the longstanding odour nuisances associated with the infrastructure in Shannon Town.
Irish Water is currently undertaking a number of briefings with residents, the local business community and elected representatives, to update them on the proposed works.
Senator Mulcahy said he hoped that the cleaning and surveying of sewers in the Shannon Town area would happen as quickly as possible after which he said long term fixes should be considered to ensure the odour nuisance does not reoccur.
He said: "For many years, I have raised the issue of substandard wastewater infrastructure in the wider Shannon area. The residents of Shannon have been given few answers as to the source of the odour nuisance. A definitive answer remains outstanding on this issue. I also believe that the inadequate infrastructure has acted as a disincentive to companies considering locating to or expanding in the area."
"I look forward to a full and frank period of consultation between the public, elected representatives and Irish Water ahead of contracts being prepared for the construction of a new two-kilometre sewer in Shannon, the cleaning and surveying of sewers in the area, and sampling and analysis of the broader network. It is important that Irish Water is left in no doubt as to the concerns of those who live and work in the area so as to ensure this issue can be put to bed once and for all," concluded Senator Mulcahy.

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AMERICAN AIRLINES

The fact that the world's largest airline is once again operating out of Shannon Airport will send a clear message to all other airlines that Shannon is very much open for business.  I warmly welcome the return after a 13 years absence of the flag of American Airlines on the runway here in Clare. Operating from today until mid -October, the Shannon to Philadelphia service will deliver an additional 114 flights in comparison to last year when the route was served under the US Airways brand.

This extended summer service will deliver a significant influx of tourists from the US East coast and regions served by Philadelphia's main airport. It also provides wonderful onward connectivity for people from this side of the Atlantic travelling to other parts of the USA as Philadelphia is an American Airlines hub.

I want to congratulate the management at the airport for their wonderful work in seeking new business. I also hope that this service will be further extended in the near future.

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Funding approved for Doolin coastal study

Clare Fine Gael Senator Tony Mulcahy says that funding has been approved for a coastal erosion and flood risk management study along a 1.5km stretch of coastline in Doolin.

Senator Mulcahy was informed by Minister of State, Simon Harris T.D. today that the study will cover the length of coastline shown from Crab Island, located south of Doolin Point, to the mouth of the River Aille.

"Doolin was badly affected by the succession of storms that battered the county during the period from late December 2013 to February 2014. The carpark area and access road to the pier were particularly badly affected. In light of the shortly to be completed €6m pier at Doolin, it is imperative that steps be now taken to minimise the risk of flood damage in the future," stated Senator Mulcahy.

"This funding announcement is particularly welcome considering it follows on foot of an announcement by Government last week of a similar coastal erosion and flood risk study for the section of coast from Quilty to Milltown Malbay with particular focus on Quilty, Spanish Point and Whitestrand. The section of coast in question, which includes Seafield, was one of the worst affected by serious tidal flooding and storm damage last year," added Senator Mulcahy.

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Shannon Group makes positive start as first annual report shows all units of business achieving progress
Group targeting sustained growth, significant reinvestment and cost containment/efficiencies
Thursday, April 30, 2015:  Shannon Group plc has delivered significant progress on key objectives set for 2014 and is now embarking on a programme to address group-wide underinvestment and improve cost efficiencies, its first annual report has revealed.
The inaugural report covers the four month financial period from the establishment of the Group on 5 September to 31 December 2014. The Group’s  four strategic business units – Shannon Airport, Shannon Heritage, Shannon Commercial Properties and the International Aviation Services Centre (IASC) – have, however, been working together throughout 2014, prior to the Groups official formation.
The Group, which employs over 600 people in high season, recorded a €21.1 million turnover in its first four months and returned a post-tax profit of €600,000, which, Chairman Rose Hynes said, amounted to a satisfactory result given that this period is off-peak for the Airport and Shannon Heritage.
Ms Hynes stated that the Group is working to a five-year strategic plan aimed at continued revenue growth, continued focus on innovation, securing a sustainable cost base through efficiencies and achieving profit growth at each of the four separate business units. The plan also incorporates an ambitious capital investment programme to ensure the Group remains firmly focused on delivering growth opportunities, which will be essential to maintain the competitiveness of the Group’s business.
“Through the generation of sustainable growth and profitability across all of our businesses and by the implementation of our five-year strategic plan, combined with an ongoing focus on innovation, I am confident that Shannon Group will make an enduring positive impact on our communities and the economic landscape of Ireland,” she said.
“Cost containment and improving financial performance through further efficiencies remain an ongoing focus for the Group. Our aim is to establish a more sustainable and robust business model and to improve our profitability across the Group.”
Commenting on the Group results, CEO Neil Pakey, “As we continue our task of building on the momentum and solid achievements of 2014, I believe the combination of our four strategic business units within a single group will unlock opportunities for further co-operation and synergies.
“Taking advantage of these synergies will be important as we strive to enable Shannon Group to fulfil its potential and become an important conduit for stimulating growth across the regional and national economy in the years ahead. It is vital the Groups’ businesses are competitive within the European marketplace. Our transformation must continue to evolve this year with emphasis on change, continuous improvement and improved efficiencies, combined with ensuring we continue to build the platform for the future sustainability of Shannon Group.
“With the creation of our five-year strategic plan, we now have a road map on which to build an exciting and sustainable future.”
Shannon Airports profitability for the full financial year 2014 improved considerably, with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) of €4.6 million, an increase of 34% on 2013.  Addressing historic underinvestment in airport infrastructure also began in 2014 through a €4.4million airport capital expenditure programme. Among these projects were an airport runway overlay upgrade, fire safety upgrade works, a new retail IT system and a new traffic management system. 
The airport continued its growth trajectory with a significant increase in passenger numbers (17%) and improvements in connectivity for the second successive year. European traffic showed the largest gains with a 70% increase. Transatlantic traffic continued to perform strongly, increasing by 10% and UK traffic recorded a 5% increase.  The Group’s intention to develop a cargo hub at the airport was also boosted this week by Turkish Airlines, through its subsidiary Turkish Cargo, who announced that it is to commence Ireland’s only direct all-cargo air service to North America from Shannon.
Shannon Airport first welcomed Turkish Airlines in early March this year when the airline began making refuelling stops at the airport. Turkish Airlines will now operate a new weekly Shannon–Chicago service on Fridays through its cargo subsidiary Turkish Cargo, significantly boosting options for Irish exporters, from multi-nationals to SMEs.
Shannon Heritage, the companys heritage visitor attraction business, also experienced a positive year, with an overall 11% increase in visitor numbers in its portfolio of visitor attractions and entertainment venues throughout the wider Shannon region and in Dublin. The company recorded over 637,000 visitors in 2014, with admission numbers to day visitor attractions up over 13%.
Shannon Heritage reported turnover of €11.9 million for the full financial year ended 31 December 2014, a 7.6% increase on the previous year, reflecting its best operational year since 2007.  These results show a clear correlation with passenger growth at Shannon Airport.
Shannon Commercial Properties’ operating profit from continuing activities and before impairments for the full financial year 2014 amounted to €0.6 million versus a loss of €1.6 million in 2013.  Shannon Commercial Properties also undertook a detailed review of its property portfolio and put in place a business plan to enhance its portfolio commencing with significant investment that is required for the redevelopment of key areas within the Shannon Free Zone (SFZ).
The Group is continuing to address the historic underinvestment in Shannon Commercial Properties’ infrastructure. When the Group inherited the property portfolio there was a low overall building occupancy rate, a challenge that the Group is actively working to resolve.  A key initiative in addressing this will be the implementation of a capital investment programme in the years ahead to enable it to have available property solutions for investment and job creation in an improving economy.
IASC has been established to build on the existing network of aviation related services in Shannon in order to continue to grow the existing globally recognised and internationally competitive aviation cluster. The core IASC team was assembled during the year and work is underway to build relationships with international partner companies and key players in the global aerospace industry.
Ends

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Senator seeks lowering of legal starting age in Irish education system
Clare Fine Gael Senator Tony Mulcahy has proposed that the legal starting age in the Irish education system for a child be reduced to 3 years of age in order to extend special education support services to preschool-going children.
Senator Mulcahy was speaking in Seanad Éireann this week in response to an address to the upper house by Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan in which she outlined the proposed introduction of a new inclusion support service to assist schools in supporting children with special educational needs.
Administered by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), the service will include the special education support service which provides training for schools in how to assist pupils with special educational needs, as well as the national behaviour support service which provides guidance and support to schools in dealing with behavioural issues. Until now these support services have been managed separately within the Department of Education.
"No one in society should be denied the right to go to preschool because they cannot get the special education support services they need," Senator Mulcahy said in response to Minister O'Sullivan's address.
He commented: "We have children in preschools with challenging behaviour getting six hours of special education support services, provided by Health Service Executive, meaning that they must stay at home for three out of five school days each week. Once a child enters the educational system, there should be a line from start to finish which they follow as part of the education process. A child with special needs requires 24 hours, seven days a week support."
Senator Mulcahy, whose daughter has special needs, said he believed the starting age in the education system for a child should be when they enter preschool at the age of three.
"Education should start at preschool right through to the end. It must be about the child’s ability, not their disability. This must be done through the one Department. I have already spoken to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, who provides some funding in this area too. I propose we streamline children's movement into primary school and further streamline it when they go into second and third level education. There should be one single channel," said Senator Mulcahy
"The managers and providers of preschool services may identify a need for dealing with challenging behaviour which the parents may not have noted themselves or accepted. There are children who may not be allowed to avail of preschool because they may not have a support for dealing with challenging behaviour and the service provider may not be able to deal with the matter. Service providers are passionate about what they do. They are not looking for supports that are not a necessity but this area has to be addressed," he concluded.

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Transaero exits examinership
Shannon-based Fine Gael Senator for Clare, Tony Mulcahy today congratulated the workers and management of Transaero in Shannon on successfully exiting examinership this week.
The aircraft maintenance specialist exited High Court protection on Wednesday after a three-month examinership succeeded in rescuing the business.
"This is a hugely positive story as it secures the future of a significant aircraft maintenance facility, which it will also give confidence to other operators considering investment in Shannon," said Senator Mulcahy.
"It is important that Transaero's customers and suppliers also be acknowledged for their support for the company. This important Shannon operation can move forward with confidence and I am particularly delighted that job security has now been confirmed for workers there," he added

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Contract extension for Cratloe Post Office

Clare Fine Gael Senator Tony Mulcahy says he has received confirmation from An Post that Cratloe Post Office is to remain open for at least another 18 months.

Senator Mulcahy said the contract for the operation of the Post Office, which was due to end this month, has been extended until September 2016.

The Shannon-based Senator said An Post's decision is a credit to the work of the local community and the Cratloe Post Office Action Group which have "campaigned vigorously" against the closure during recent months."

He described the extension of the Post Office contract as "a victory for community action."

"I attended a number of meetings in Cratloe and at the GPO in Dublin at which the people of Cratloe outlined the many reasons why the Post Office should remain open and how its closure would potentially impact the village and surrounding areas. This community approach worked and has served to convince An Post that its plan to not renew the Post Office operating contract was premature," said Senator Mulcahy.

"Specific credit must go to Josefa McGelligott of the Cratloe Post Office Action Group who took a stand on this issue and helped to reverse a decision I am convinced would have negatively impacted the lives of local people. An Post's decision is a victory for them and their community. I also wish to acknowledge Aonghus O'Lafferty of An Post for giving the local community the opportunity to raise their concerns, as well as Cathaoirleach John Crowe, Cllr. PJ Ryan, other local Elected Members and my Oireachtas colleagues for their support for retaining this vital community service," added Senator Mulcahy

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Fleadh decision “thoroughly deserved but long overdue” - Mulcahy

Clare Senator Tony Mulcahy says the naming of Ennis as the host venue for the 2016 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is the result of an "unprecedented countywide effort" by Clare's cultural organisations to secure the prestigious event.

Senator Mulcahy said the decision of the Ardchomhairle of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann to select Ennis as the host location is "thoroughly deserved but long overdue."

"It has been almost four decades since Clare hosted this event which is a shame considering the County is very much the spiritual home of Irish traditional music and song. The perseverance of the local Fleadh Working Group and cultural organisations throughout the County has been instrumental in delivering this huge announcement,” said Senator Mulcahy.

“Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann will bring up to 350,000 people to Ennis, more than 10,0000 of whom will be musicians. The economic and cultural benefits are significant not only for Clare but the entire Mid West with the event expected to generate €40 million for the Region.  The Fleadh also provides a platform for the people of Clare to show the rest of Ireland and the world of their capacity to host large scale cultural events, while at the same time demonstrate the scale of cultural activity ongoing in the county,” added Senator Mulcahy.

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Clare records 21% drop in unemployment levels since early 2012
County Clare has recorded a 21% drop in unemployment levels during the past three years with more than two thousand people returning to work, according to Clare Fine Gael Senator Tony Mulcahy.
Senator Mulcahy was responding to latest CSO figures showing that unemployment nationally has fallen for 31 months in a row since the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs was launched in early 2012.
“Another drop in the Live Register in January emphasises that the economy is in recovery and that more people are entering the jobs market. I am particularly encouraged that the Live Register here in Clare has dropped by 20.74%, down from 10,508 to 8,329,” said Senator Mulcahy.
“This progress has been mirrored throughout the country. The national unemployment rate has fallen from 15.2% in 2012 to 10.5% now. There is however, more work to be done and I expect to see a further drop in these figures in the coming months.
“There have been some encouraging jobs announcements here in Clare in recent months. I want to ensure that we are able to compete with Dublin and Cork in attracting further foreign direct investment to the county. According to the IDA, 37% of investments in 2014 were made outside the main centres and the Government will work to continue this trend.
“Unemployment is falling steadily across the country, but very significantly we are now seeing a drop in rural areas as CSO figures show that the live register dropped in all eight regions of the country over the course of 2014. This year there will be an increased focus on job creation outside of the main urban centres as the Minister for Jobs, Richard Bruton is preparing to launch a pilot programme of the Regional Enterprise Strategy. This strategy will specifically address growing economies in rural areas,” added Senator Mulcahy

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€9M Leader fund for Clare
Fine Gael Senator for Clare, Tony Mulcahy has welcomed a funding package of almost 9 million euro for the LEADER element of the Rural Development Programme in County Clare.
Senator Mulcahy described the allocation of €8,920,224 to County Clare as of "huge significance to community led projects" in Clare.
“The LEADER programme is all about community led projects; it is focused on making the recovery local. Once approval for the programme has been given by the European Commission, Local Action Groups of Clare will be invited to submit ideas for how funding should be spent. These groups will be set up in accordance with the EU Regulations and will consist of representatives across public and private socio-economic interests," he said.
“I know in Clare there are any number of projects where funding is needed and will be of huge benefit. Due to the new Local Government Reform Act 2014, this money will be controlled at a local level and therefore the allocation of resources will be much more targeted, cost effective and efficient. Streamlining operations at a local level should maximise the funding available to support important projects and the local communities in Clare," added Senator Mulcahy.

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Tony Mulcahy

Tony Mulcahy

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